Fresh faces key as MC hoops enters new era
By John Painter | (email@example.com)
Don’t be fooled by Randy Lambert’s list of incoming recruits.
The long-time Maryville men’s basketball head coach hasn’t decided to implement wholesale changes to his roster heading into the team’s debut season in the USA South Athletic Conference.
It’s simply Lambert’s way of maintaining quality and competitiveness in a program he has led for 32 years, 18 of which have ended in the NCAA tournament.
“You’re thinking, ‘Well, there’s only eight or nine who play and you’re bringing in 14 or 15,’” said Lambert, who last season guided the Scots to an 18-10 ledger that included winning their final Great South Athletic Conference tournament and earning an NCAA berth. “We also run a junior varsity program, so we recruit in two ways. We recruit people who can help us in our varsity program, and then we’ll also recruit young men who might have the potential to help us down the road.
“I’ve been running a JV program since I got here. So if you’ve been doing it for 32 years, there’s something good from doing it.”
Lambert also expects his younger squad members to have a larger impact than normal this season.
“It’s safe to say there will be six to seven freshmen and sophomores in our top 10 this year,” he said. Lambert’s son, Wes, a shooting guard who averaged 10.3 points last season, is the team’s only senior.
“I can’t say it’s going to be another Kentucky, where you put three freshmen and two sophomores on the floor and win a national championship — I don’t think it will be to that extent — but I do think that even though we’ll be young, we’ll be very competitive.”
Lambert credits his assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, former Scots star point guard Raul Placeres, for this year’s recruiting success.
“This was Raul’s first year as an assistant coach in our program and he has done an exceptional job,” Lambert said.
Not included among the 14 enrolling in August but also new to the Scots’ roster is transfer Jose Agosto, who played for Placeres at Gatlinburg-Pittman High School and originally signed last summer with Division I Canisius in Buffalo, N.Y. Agosto enrolled at Maryville to start the spring semester and retains his freshman eligibility status.
Last week, Agosto was drafted by Campus Lights of Knoxville’s Rocky Top summer basketball league.
“Recruiting on our level is all about developing relationships,” Lambert said. “Every kid we recruit, we’re asking them to pay some toward their tuition. The college does a great job of trying to put together an affordable package for every one of our prospects — whether it would be an athlete or a non-athlete.
“But if we’re going to recruit a so-called difference-maker, then more than likely he’s getting some athletic scholarship opportunities too. That’s our competition.”
Eight members of this year’s class are Tennesseans, including a pair from William Blount High School in Levi Trentham and Matt Connatser. Four others are from Georgia, a state where Lambert has had success throughout the years.
“Georgia’s been really good to us,” he said. “The Atlanta-Marietta area, it’s just a great place to find prospects. You have a lot of good players there and some of them get overlooked just because of the sheer numbers.
“We’ve established some very good contacts in that area and I’m glad they think of us when they’re looking to place their kids.”
Recruiting remains Lambert’s ticket to success. His career record stands at 602-257 (.701) entering season No. 33, and Lambert sounds as excited about this new era of Scots basketball as any he can remember.
“I like this year’s class,” he said. “Usually if you can put back-to-back recruiting years together, it’s going to pay dividends in the next couple of years. And we’ve done that.”